Ever wonder about the big white guy in the Big White Trailer who times most of the local races?
Having been in & around the club or 15+ years, I forget that not everyone knows Jim Lang (owner of Big White Trailer timing services), a Harborcreek-area runner and father of three children under 5, the oldest of which, little curly-haired Emma, can often be found “helping” dad with results.
Beyond race results, Jim also developed (and still maintains) the ERC Website and he helps the club with membership stuff, mailing lists, etc. He also started (and directs) the Tuesday Night Race League. Jim is truly an ERC MVP!
So…. meet Jim:
1. How did you get into race timing?
I started by volunteering for the ERC. Just running the Chronomix at first, then shadowing Rick Godzwa. Then I did a smaller race for ERC on my own. Then more ERC races. Mark Courtney (Runner’s High) saw my work and sent me to some of his races. Then folks started approaching me directly. At the start, I didn’t think of this at all. Now, I don’t know how it could have worked differently.
2. How long have you been doing it now?
Since about 2002. I think. My records were spotty at first.
3. This is a job for you, correct? Sidework, per se (because you have a day job)?
It is a side job. By day I’m an IT administrator for a manufacturing company (Modern Industries). Someday it might pay enough that I can give up the day job, but it’s not there yet.
4. How many races do you time a year?
Counting TNRL (Tuesday Night Race League), “Real” races, the ERC, and the races I time for Runners High, and not counting auxiliary work, I timed 61 races last year.
5. You’re a family man, but you must spend every weekend at races. Have you reached your limit?
Not yet. We work together on scheduling and I’ve turned down races because Jen was already committed to work. She has also wiggled her schedule to accommodate races. We work together.
6. How many kids do you and Jen have? Ages?
Emma is 4, will be 5 in July. Joe just turned 2. Grace turned 1 on May 12.
7. What do you LIKE about timing races? Is it a challenge?
I like knowing that, after the race is over, the participants know how they did and know that they can count it to be accurate. It’s kind of hard to put into words. When I do a race, I like to know how I did, and how I did relative to others. Now that I’m not as competitive, I still like to know how I did, but it’s not as important.
And, yes, it’s a challenge. There are always challenges getting things done in a timely manner. Can I do it? Can I keep up with the rush?
8. OK..what do you NOT like about it?
Every once in a while I’ll run into someone unhappy about something. Whether it’s something I can do about it or not, they won’t be satisfied. As a timer, I can usually shrug it off. As a Race Director, it’s harder sometimes.
9. What is the most aggravating thing runners do (timing wise)?
Bandit the race. Always and forever, runners coming across the line without a tag (and not paying for the race) present the biggest challenge. They’re stealing from the race, and they’re making it harder to give those that have paid for the race the service they deserve.
10. What’s the silliest/dumbest/oh-my-god thing you’ve seen a runner do (in regards to timing)?
a. Leaving their bibs or chips in their car.
b. Followed closely by runners who go back to run their friends in, then don’t drop out before crossing the finish. They’re like bandits, but they confuse the heck out of the volunteers.
c. Last one — folks that jump out of the chute (whether they are part of “b” or not). In fact, make this number one and throw away the rest. It only applies to bib races, but it’s a real headache.
11. What is the most common mistake(s) runners make that really screw you (their time) up?
They’ll leave their bib or their chip in the car, then NOT tell me about it until after the race is over. It’s ever so much easier to fix before the awards.
12. What one thing can people do to make your life easier?
13. Timing used to take days when I started racing a dozen years ago…now it takes minutes – are you amazed by that? How did it/you get so fast?
It doesn’t amaze me a bit. I’ve invested a LOT of time and a fair bit of money into skills, software, and equipment to make the finish line as efficient as it can be. Slow results are usually a function of the timer. Occasionally, there’s an organizational problem, but I always try to suck that up. (Next year they’ll remember I took care of them….)
14. How do you decide which type of timing device to use (bibs, champion chips, jaguar system)?
a. Almost always it’s a decision by the Race Director. Bibs are cheapest (and easiest for a 5k under 300 finishers or 10k under 500). Jaguar works well for up to about 1000 finishers, but costs $1.50/chip and takes time to prepare. CC is best for short notice big races or > 1000 runners.
b. St. Pat’s was a short-notice thing. I had anticipated Jaguar, but realized I was 500 chips short a week out.
c. Turkey Trot can’t be handled by Jaguar.
15. What would runners be surprised to know about timing?
It’s the volunteers that make it possible. If it weren’t for them, this simply wouldn’t happen. Or I’d have to hire people, which would drive up costs by a lot. Be sure to thank a volunteer.
16. What does the future hold for race timing? What’s coming up? Runers with microchips in their arms, etc. LOL….laugh, but…hey…it would be efficient!
I’m thinking optical. Wear a standard bib. Cameras capture you as you cross the finish line. Computers read your bib number & capture the finish with a timing light. If I can amortize that cost over 100 races, I can do it almost as cheap as bibs. (Of course, the folks that wear their bibs on the back will be a problem).
17. What is the most challenging race you do?
a. Turkey Trot, without a doubt. 5k Run & 5k Walk, 10 minutes apart, Then the 10k an hour later. Insane.
b. I used to time one in Philly with 1900 runners & 250 day-of. Firecracker 4k in State College has 400+ day-of, but they have three volunteers to help with that.
18. Do you ever have the chance to run races..or do you run on your own?
TNRL exists so I can run. Courtney’s Twilight quad, as well. Right now I’m injured, so not so much.
19. What’s the significance of the name “Big White Trailer?”
I needed a domain name. Everything I wanted that had something to do with timing was taken. Then someone mentioned the “Big White Trailer” behind my little Jeep, and that was it. To borrow a tag line: “Long name; Amazing results.” It is also rather difficult to misspell.
20. Anything else I should add?
a. Have I mentioned the volunteers? And pre-registering?
b. I just like what I do. I found something I can enjoy, that challenges me, and pays me enough that I can look at my family and say “this is worthwhile.” Emma is getting old enough that she can enjoy helping Daddy with some of it. I see all of the kids playing Patrick for quite a while. It’s a job I can love for a long time.
YOUR TURN: Got a question for Jim? Something you’ve always wanted to know about race timing? Post a comment and I’ll repeat your question & Jim’s answer for everyone to read. (You can remain anonymous if you wish.)